Tag Archives: Stranger

Everyone Welcome (…or not)

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)

When I was young, my parents continually told me and my siblings “Your friends are always welcome in our house.” They meant it. I can remember nights when entire groups of my brothers’ friends would show up. My brothers weren’t home, but their friends would sit around the living room with my parents for long chats. As the youngest sibling, I observed the warmth of my parents hospitality and the effect on those high schoolers.

As I got older, I never hesitated to offer to have an impromptu social at our house with entire throngs of my friends. Wendy has convinced me, in retrospect, that it would have been more respectful if I had actually called my parents to ask permission or to give them a little warning. My parents, nevertheless, always laughed and rolled with it. I even told college friends to call my parents if they needed a place to crash on their drive home to the west coast. That happened, and my parents still enjoy telling the story.

I endeavored to have the same hospitality that I witnessed in my parents. I want our home to be a place of welcome, warmth, conversation, and love. I never want visitors to feel like a burden.

Along my life journey I’ve come to realize that hospitality is not a strong suit of my culture. I’ve attended predominantly black churches and received warm welcome that I knew would not be equally reciprocated if they came to my church on Sunday. I grieve this truth.

When I travelled in the middle east I regularly encountered the unbelievable hospitality of Muslims whom I expected to treat me like an enemy. Our daughters have experienced the same in their travels and missions overseas. I will never forget our daughter’s observation that the most Christ-like people she’d encountered were not her missions team, but a Muslim shopkeeper and his wife who invited her to dinner. Once again, we know in our hearts that our foreign hosts would likely not receive an equally hospitable welcome in our community. I grieve this truth.

This morning I’m thinking about my own posture towards hospitality. It’s easy to be hospitable to people of my choosing, with whom I am comfortable. I am reminded of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. In Jesus’ estimation, the one who truly loved his neighbor was the one who showed sacrificial hospitality to a perfect stranger in need who didn’t look like him, come from the same community as him, or believe the same things. I confess this morning that if you measure my hospitality by Jesus’ definition, I am found wanting.

Lord, have mercy on me.

I have some work to do.

God from a Distance; God who is Near

from a distanceO Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
    so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
Psalm 86:5 (NLT)

For the past week or so we’ve been reading lyrics of psalms penned by Asaph during a period of time when Jerusalem was under siege by Babylon and eventually captured and destroyed. In those lyrics I felt a sense of God being distant, almost like a stranger. They feel to me like a corporate national cry from afar to God of whom they’ve heard about but do not necessarily know intimately.

This morning’s psalm written by David felt like a sudden and sharp contrast. The lyrics are a very personal plea to God who is near, intimate, and personally known:

  • I am devoted to you.
  • You are my God.
  • I give myself to you.
  • I call…you will answer
  • With all my heart I praise you
  • I will give glory to you
  • Your love for me is great

I am reminded this morning that our view of God is often dependent on our experience and perspective. I know many for whom God is a distant, angry, and judgmental entity because that’s the view they were presented when they were young. Others I know view God as a unknowable father who has abandoned them. For some, God is simply a stranger they’ve heard about from many different people but have never personally met.

I feel much more like David. My experience is of a thirty plus year relationship with an intimate, personal Father God of love, compassion, grace, mercy, provision, forgiveness, and patience. The songs of my heart sound much more like David and little like those of Asaph.

God is not that far off. God is longing to know and be known. As Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened.” I have found along the journey that there is a difference between observing God from a distance and actually asking, seeking, and knocking.